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School board narrows list of potential projects

The Farmington School Board has taken another step toward whittling down a list of potential projects at schools around the district.

At a special meeting Nov. 17 board members reviewed a list of construction, remodeling and renovation projects picked out as priorities from a larger list compiled by architect The Cunningham Group and presented to the board at a special meeting Oct. 11. The narrowed list includes additions at a few schools to increase available space and remodeling to make better use of the space that is there or to smooth traffic flow outside the buildings. It also includes a recommendation to shut down parts of the oldest building in the district.

The board did not make any decisions about which of the roughly $10.2 million worth of projects it will pursue, or when, but with about $18.5 million in bond money originally targeted for a no-longer-needed sixth elementary school, the district could conceivably pay for all of the projects.

The last time the district compiled a capital improvement plan, a sort of checklist of work it feels could or should be done to improve district buildings, the process led to the construction of a new high school. Nothing on the current list is anywhere near that large, but projects like expanding kindergarten classrooms at Farmington Elementary School, where classrooms are more than 200 square feet below Department of Education guidelines, are aimed at making the district's existing spaces better.

FES principal Ben Januschka called the kindergarten spaces his top priority.

"The priorities that are laid out are definitely the first look at where our dollars should be going," said board chair Veronica Walter.

FES and Akin Road Elementary School, the district's two oldest school buildings, are the sites of most of the recommended work. Projects identified in the report include additions at both schools and changes to improve the flow of traffic in the schools' parking lots. They also include projects to add common spaces for each grade level. Such spaces, where all of the classes in a given grade can gather, are common in more modern school buildings.

There are $3.1 million in projects identified at Akin Road. They include an addition for a new media center. The existing media center would be remodeled into common spaces for classrooms.

At FES, $5.5 million worth of projects include an addition to and upgrade of the kitchen space, an addition to expand office space and increase security and remodeling and new construction to create a student commons.

There are no projects identified at Meadowview Elementary School, the district's newest elementary building, and only $111,540 worth of remodeling at North Trail Elementary.

The list includes science room upgrades at Boeckman MIddle School designed to make the former high school better fit middle school students, and the addition of a separate entry for the pool at Dodge Middle School.

Cunningham Group representatives estimated shutting down the 1911 and 1929 wings of the district's administrative services center could save $45,000.

Prices included in the list are only rough estimates and would be fleshed out further if the district chooses to proceed.

The projects, if they are approved, would be completed over the course of several years. Cunningham Group representatives told board members they will have to take action by mid-December in order to be prepared to do any work in the coming summer.

Though the board made no mention of pushing ahead that fact, the possibility concerned two recently elected board members. Both Tera Lee and Michelle Sauser spoke out at Monday's regular board meeting in favor of a process to bring the proposed projects to the public for reaction.


School board members also discussed a technology upgrade plan that would dedicate $4.4 million over five years to pay for tech-related projects.

That includes technology for the classrooms as well as wireless networks, computer upgrades and upgrades to the district's telephone system.

"People want more tech in the district and we're trying to be reflective of that," superintendent Brad Meeks said. "But we all realize technology changes so quickly."

The technology plan calls for an annual review of what is needed and what is available.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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